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PATRIOTS NOTEBOOK: Schaefer would have turned 43 - The Sun Chronicle : Patriots

PATRIOTS NOTEBOOK: Schaefer would have turned 43

Patriots' first permanent home had its flaws, but changed fate of team

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Posted: Saturday, August 16, 2014 12:00 am

FOXBORO - It was built on a shoestring and a prayer, and it served the Patriots as well as it could for a little more than 30 years.

Schaefer Stadium, the first permanent home of the Patriots in Foxboro, opened on Aug. 15, 1971 - 43 years to the day from Friday night's home preseason opener, a 42-35 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. Renamed Sullivan Stadium and then Foxboro Stadium, the $6.2 million (in 1970 dollars) edifice survived as the Patriots' home until Jan. 19, 2002 - the famed "Snow Bowl" or "Tuck Rule Game" against the Oakland Raiders in the AFC Divisional Round of the playoffs.

The Patriots won that game, 16-13 in overtime on their way to their first Super Bowl championship on Feb. 3, 2002 (a 20-17 win over St. Louis in New Orleans), but their old stadium never had a championship banner raised over it. It was demolished in the offseason, its last vestiges serving as the Patriots' headquarters for the 2002 NFL Draft, before Gillette Stadium opened that fall.

Schaefer Stadium debuted amid lots of fanfare and even more confusion, as no one had any idea what would happen when 60,000 people and 18,000 cars converged upon the area all at once. The traffic jam that followed was the stuff of legend, some individuals spending more than four hours in their original spaces in the overtaxed parking lots of the adjacent New England Harness Raceway, whose owner, E.M. Loew, had donated the land for the stadium for tax considerations.

The game itself was a 20-14 victory for the Patriots over the New York Giants, played before an opening-night crowd of 60,423. Gino Cappelletti, the only original Patriot left from their 1960 founding, kicked the first field goal in the new stadium - he was released the following week - and a promising rookie from Attleboro, tight end Dave Hardt, a sixth-round draft choice out of Kentucky, suffered a serious knee injury on the opening kickoff and never played again.

The toilets didn't flush and the scoreboards didn't work, and of course, the traffic jam was a harbinger of problems that would dog the site on U.S. 1 to this day - but there's no denying that the events of 43 years ago would forever alter the lives of the area's residents, and particularly its sports fans.

Quick kicks

The Patriots had run 23 offensive plays before the Eagles got a chance to run their first Stephen Gostkowski made all six of his extra points from the extended distance, even though his last attempt had to clang favorably off the upright and sneak through. But his 43-yard miss of a field goal made him 0-2 for three-pointers this preseason Malcolm Butler got the start at right cornerback and shared the team-high tackle total (7) with linebacker Steve Beauharnais. Kyle Arrington, meanwhile, got the start at safety alongside Devin McCourty, giving the Patriots two converted cornerbacks in the outfield Darrelle Revis started at left corner, and Eagles' QB Nick Foles dutifully avoided him

First-year running back Jonas Gray, who spent all of the 2013 season on the Baltimore practice squad, led the team with 98 yards rushing on 12 carries for an 8.2-yard average The Patriots' defense forced four turnovers with two fumbles and two interceptions, converting the turnovers into 21 points Dan Connolly started at center and first-year guard Jordan Devey started on the right side after starting on the left last week against Washington.

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